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Mites may look like walking dandruff

Cheyletiella mites cause flakiness along the back—and may appear to move. This walking dandruff is contagious, as Dr. Lee explains.

Mites may look like walking dandruff

Q: We adopted a kitten, Lollipop, from a friend whose cat had kittens. Lollipop has dandruff, and the flakes of skin along her back actually seem to move around slowly. What should we do about it?

A: Lollipop may have Cheyletiella (pronounced “ky-le-tee-EL-la”), mites that are extremely contagious among cats, dogs and rabbits. Cheyletiella mites cause flakiness along the back and sometimes itchiness, redness and hair loss. The flakes of skin sometimes move slightly as the mites tunnel beneath them, so the disease is called walking dandruff.

Transmission is by direct contact with the mites or indirectly, through exposure to bedding, furniture or carpeting that holds mites or their eggs. Therefore, all pets in your household should be treated.

Once your veterinarian makes a diagnosis, Lollipop can begin treatment, which is easy and very effective. Common treatments are Revolution or Advantage Multi, which also prevent heartworm disease and kill fleas, ear mites, roundworms and hookworms. In addition, lime sulfur dips and Frontline are effective against Cheyletiella.

Cheyletiella mites also are contagious to humans, where they cause an itchy rash. If you have a rash, see your health care provider.

Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at

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